BALTIMORE – The Coppin State College crowd roared for former President Bill Clinton to take the stage Friday night, enthusiasm that Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is hoping will transfer to her deadlocked race for governor.
But a few in the crowd forgot that the rally was for Townsend, and they headed for the exits as soon as she took the stage.
Still, the majority remained for Townsend’s speech.
But it was Clinton who held the audience’s attention with his endorsement for the lieutenant governor, citing the benefits Townsend would bring to Maryland’s teetering economy.
“When you have a good economy, it’s not as important to have a good governor,” Clinton said. “When you have a hard economy, you need a good governor.”
The state faces a $1.7 billion deficit in the next fiscal year, a problem that likely will be left to the next governor, who will take office in January.
The former president even edged in a few shots at the nation’s current Republican administration and its return to deficit spending.
“Arithmetic still rules in Annapolis,” he said. “Arithmetic ruled in D.C. when I was there, but they got rid of it and look what’s happened.”
Clinton also criticized Townsend’s opponent, U.S. Rep. Bob Ehrlich, on his past education voting record while lauding Townsend’s involvement with Maryland schools.
The former president said the Democratic Party had a history of inclusiveness for all Americans, and he said Townsend would continue that trend.
“Where else in America can you find a banner at a rally that says, `Ethiopian Americans for Kathleen Kennedy Townsend,'” he said, pointing to a large sign hanging on one of the gym walls.
Townsend emphasized the same points she made when the ex-president’s wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., endorsed her Wednesday night in Bethesda: education, health care and public safety.
Other Democratic leaders on hand for the rally included Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, who once considered running against Townsend, and U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes, both Baltimore Democrats.
U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, called Clinton the “first black president,” while Mikulski touted Townsend’s record with the minority community of Maryland.
“It’s civil rights that gets you into the stadium, but it’s economic empowerment that gets you into the game,” Mikulski said.
The Rev. John A. Heath, a Republican candidate for the 43rd District of the House of Delegates, however, said he believed people leaving early was a telling sign of the Townsend campaign.
“It goes to show people aren’t excited with this woman,” said Heath, who attended the rally. “I think black people want a reason to vote for Bob Ehrlich.”
Clinton remains very popular among black voters, while Ehrlich has courted the minority vote in a variety of ways, including naming black former state GOP Chairman Michael Steele as his running mate.
Heath, who is black, said calling Ehrlich “conservative” is an old trick by the Democratic Party to make blacks think he is racist.
The event was scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., however, Townsend and Clinton did not arrive at the gym until approximately 5:30 p.m. They had been speaking with about 30 ministers at the college beforehand.
While the rally and meeting with the ministers were free to the public, there was a reception for Clinton and Townsend shortly after, costing $1,000- per-person. It was followed by a two-hour Maryland State Democratic Party fund- raiser with tickets costing $100 each. The evening concluded with a private, $4,000-a-plate dinner with the former president and the lieutenant governor.
The Townsend campaign predicted before the events that they would raise $500,000 for the lieutenant governor. – 30 – CNS-10-18-02